Why photographers use tripods? Well, the answer to this question is pretty simple – to prevent camera shake as much as possible and create sharper photos.
Beginner photographer might think that tripod is necessary only for long exposures, but it is not exactly so. The longer your focal length, the more sensitive you get to camera shake. For example if you shoot with wide angle lens (I am intentionally taking this to extremes) with shutter speed of 1/60s you will get pretty sharp photo, but if you’ll take your telephoto lens, lets say 300 mm (without image stabilizer) and shoot with the same shutter speed, most of the chances that you’ll get a very blurred result. But consider also this – most professional landscape photographers use tripod even when they are shooting landscapes in bright light using wide angle lenses! So in order to get tack sharp photos you must use tripod.
How to use tripod correctly
Though it seems pretty simple – just put your camera on a tripod and start shooting, there are several things you need to know that will help you get good results from shooting with tripod.
1. Use Manual Focus.
When you hold camera in your hands and shoot, you can always press the shutter button half-way to focus on your subject, then recompose, and take a picture with correct focus. But when you shoot with tripod this simple task gets a little bit more complicated. So what you should do is use auto focus to focus on your subject, then switch to manual focus, recompose according to your intentions, lock the tripod and then shoot. Since you switched to manual focus, it won’t change when you press the shutter button after recomposing. Of course that you can always use only manual focus, making this advice irrelevant.
2. Use Manual Shooting Mode.
Same as with focus, when you shoot handheld, you can take light metering from the area that you want to, then lock exposure, recompose, and shoot. Using tripod you’ll have to first take light metering from the desired area, then set shooting mode to manual and set the correct exposure according to metering. After this you can recompose and shoot.
The following tips will help you get even sharper photos when shooting with tripod
3. Use Cable Release.
Cable release is simply cable with a button. You attach it to your camera and instead of pressing the shutter release button on your camera, you press the button on the cable. This prevents the camera shake caused by your finger pressing the shutter release button.
4. Use Mirror Lock.
In SLR cameras there is a mirror lock option. For those who doesn’t understand what it means, I’ll shortly explain. When you look through the viewfinder of your SLR, you see everything through the lens. Although you must have noticed that actual position of the lens is much below the viewfinder. In other words – viewfinder and lens are not in the same plane. So how can you look into the view finder and see through the lens? Thats right – there are mirrors involved. There is a mirror that you can see when changing lenses, it is at 45 degree angle to the lens. This mirror is reflecting everything the lens “sees” up, to the viewfinder (there is also a pentaprism involved which enables you to actually see through the viewfinder, but that’s not important right now). When you press the shutter button this mirror goes up, and then shutter opens to expose the sensor (or film). I bet you have noticed that when you press the shutter button, you can’t see nothing in the viewfinder – it is because the mirror is up.
And now to the sickest part – camera shake caused by the mirror movement! When you press the shutter release button, this mirror goes up, and this movement also causes camera shake! Though this shake might not seem to be a significant one, it exists. In order to prevent it there is a mirror lock option. This option first locks the mirror in the up position (when you don’t see nothing in the viewfinder) and only after the mirror is locked the shutter is released.
5. Turn off Image Stabilizer.
If your lens has image stabilizer you should turn it off when shooting with tripod. Image stabilizer is very good when shooting hand-held, but on a tripod it is of no use since there is no camera movement. Image stabilizer engine can even cause some shake thus making images less sharp.
So as you can see, shooting with tripod is not as trivial as it might seem at first, but also not that hard when you know how to do it.